A Civil War Biography
Griffin was born 18 December 1825 in Granville, Licking County Ohio.
After graduating 23rd in the West Point class of 1847 he was posted
to the 2nd US artillery. The 2nd, along with its new 2nd lieutenant,
was ordered to Mexico. Griffin commanded an artillery company during
the final campaign of the war. In 1849 he was promoted to 1st
lieutenant and fought Navajo Indians in New Mexico until 1854. He
remained on the frontier until in early 1860 he was assigned to West
Point as an artillery instructor.
At 1st Bull Run Griffin, by then a captain in the 2 US artillery,
commanded the West Point battery which he had formed from the
enlisted men stationed at the military academy. The battery became
battery D of the 5th US artillery. Griffin was promoted to brigadier
general of volunteers on 9 June 1862 and, transferred to the
infantry, commanded the 2nd brigade in George W. Morell's 1st
division of Fitz John Porter's V Corps during the Seven Days. At
Malvern Hill he massed his artillery to support his brigade.
Immediately after 2nd Bull Run, John Pope charged Griffin with
failing to take part in the action. Griffin was arrested but was
released after Pope was sent packing to the Department of the
Northwest. Griffin was elevated to division command. He commanded
the 1st division of the V Corps at Antietam, Fredericksburg, and
Chancellorsville. Although present at Gettysburg, he was too sick to
lead his division. He was again in division command at the
Wilderness and retained this command through Petersburg. He was
brevetted major general of volunteers on 1 August 1864 and colonel
in the regular army on 18 August 1864. He was given command of the V
Corps during the Appomattox campaign and distinguished himself at
Five Forks. On 13 March 1865 he was brevetted both brigadier and
major general in the regular army. At Appomattox he was designated
by Ulysses S. Grant to receive the arms and colors of the
surrendering Army of Northern Virginia.
Griffin remained in the army after the war. On 10 August 1865 he was
assigned to command the District of Maine with his headquarters in
Portland. On 28 July 1866 he was commissioned colonel of the 35th US
infantry and shortly thereafter was given command of the Department
of Texas with headquarters at Galveston. He immediately set about to
the work of reconstruction, registering both black and white voters
and replacing all officeholders that had supported the Confederacy.
He even persuaded Philip Sheridan, the commander of the 5th military
district of which Texas was a part, to remove the governor, James W.
Throckmorton and put Elisha M. Pease, a Republican and Unionist, in
his place. On 5 September 1867, while a yellow fever epidemic raged
in Galveston, Griffin was assigned temporary command of the 5th
military district. He was ordered to the district's headquarters in
New Orleans, Louisiana but refused to leave Galveston in its time of
need liking it to deserting one's post in time of battle. On 15
September 1867 he succumbed to the fever.
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